Humans are amazing pattern recognition engines.
Here’s a lovely example:
1, 2, …
A, B, …
Red, Green, …
Apple, Boy, ….
i’m going to go ahead and guess that you responded with 3, C, Blue, and Cat (or some other simple word that begins with “C” that you probably remembered from a primary school reader).
You didn’t reply with 12, Abacus, Yellow, and Orangutan.
i’m also going to bet that you absolutely would not have answered Orangutan for any of those even if you worked out the other pattern i was using, because orangutan doesn’t fit any pattern. (i’ll note that one of the keystones of comedy is pattern breaking so it’s ok if you giggled at that one.)
So, why, when we are setting aside time to plan our work are we setting out to sabotage ourselves?
Think about it. Every 6 months, we’re asked to come up with a set of goals. The first set are company focused goals, where we plan what objectives we’re going to try and make and what challenges we’re setting up to deliver. We’re going to be judged and evaluated on those, and if we don’t meet those self designated marks, we will not be fiscally rewarded. That means that we have to assess our skills and capabilities, then craft a message that can be presented to Those That Write Checks in a way that can sound more challenging than it probably really is.
This is absolutely human nature. No one willingly sets themselves up for failure unless that failure is actually a success in disguise. (i actively tried to get myself fired from a company once because i realized that if i left, i wouldn’t get a generous severance package. Guess what the winning strategy was in that case?)
So, after all that careful, and borderline Machiavellian planning, we then turn and ask “How do you want to improve?”
Your brain will absolutely scream “OH NO! SAY SOMETHING THAT WON’T GET YOU FIRED!”
You’ll come up with yet another modest goal that will be achievable with great show that your boss will rubber stamp because they’ve got a dozen reports. If you do manage to pull off something impressive, it’s probably going to be by surprise, and you might add it to the goals list next time. Well, unless you got your name in the papers or headlined a conference or something, then you’re kinda screwed and you’ll just add that to your resume.
Instead, let’s break the Personal Goals from the Corporate ones. Like REALLY break them, not just put them in a different section on the same page. Give folks a clear and separate workspace to log how they want to improve (or what they want to improve) and how they’re going about doing that. It should be a log, not a report card, so folks can note the disappointments and setbacks that are crucial. It should be something they’re willing to share not only with management, but peers and even outside folk. This is how you get folks to expand and how you get them to recognize what they can do.
A LARGE number of people do not have a high opinion of themselves. That’s the main reason that Impostor Syndrome is prevalent. i will note that i am not a fan of myself, and haven’t been for pretty much my entire life. i am acutely aware of my shortcomings, failures, and areas of ignorance. We are all hard wired to remember the awful and dismiss the good.
It is really, really hard to see progress, particularly personal progress, because of the head full of a**holes that constantly remind me of the terrible. Heck, my personal goals have been crap and dismiss-able because of that as well. It was only after i made a concerted effort to address that problem that i got anywhere.
Now i just need to convince HR.